by Kusha Karvandi
Back in 1993, stockbroker Trent Dyrsmid was hired by a bank in Abbotsford, Canada.
The bank was small, but Dyrsmid was new to banking. The expectations for him weren’t very high. To compound the issue, Abbotsford was simply a minor suburb of Vancouver at that time. It wasn’t considered to be any kind of hub. Major email services such as Hotmail and AOL were still years away. Even more than today, location was an essential component to success in the business world. Abbotsford wasn’t the town you went to when you wanted to make big deals.
But even though the odds were stacked against Dyrsmid, he was able to make substantial progress right away. How? It was thanks to one simple habit.
Dyrsmid kept two jars on his desk. One of the jars contained 120 different paper clips. The other jar didn’t contain anything. Dyrsmid used these jars to catapult himself to success.
Each morning, Trent Dyrsmid would start off with 120 paper clips in his jar. When he made a phone call, he’d move one of the paper clips over to the empty jar. He kept on going until every single paper clip was moved.
For Dyrsmid, that was all it took. He made 120 calls every day, and he moved his paper clips one at a type.
Dyrsmid quickly saw his healthy habits pay off. After 18 months, he had a business book with over $5 million dollars worth of assets in it. He was bringing in a salary of over $75,000 before his 25th birthday. It didn’t take long for other firms to start trying to recruit him. After a few years, he was offered a $200,000 salary from a new company.
When people have talked to Dyrsmid about his success, they’ve often been surprised by what he has to say. Instead of looking for quotes or doing research, Dyrsmid just made phone call after phone call. He didn’t comb through the newspaper looking for stories. He knew that he’d find out about important stories no matter what. To him, making phone calls was all that mattered.
There’s a lot that can be learned from Dyrsmid’s story. In many cases, the key to success isn’t luck or talent. It’s about figuring out the fundamentals and committing to them completely.
Look at where your methods have taken you, and look at where Trent’s methods have taken him. Consistency is something that many people struggle with. There are lots of habits we want to develop, such as exercising or eating healthy meals, but finding the right motivation is a major challenge. Even though people want to achieve their goals, they simply can’t stop procrastinating.
What’s the secret? Why do we pick up some habits and not others? What made Trent’s jars of paper clips so successful, and how can we apply that success to our own lives.
One of the reasons that Trent’s paper clips worked so well is that he had a visual cue in front of him. Visual triggers are able to aid people in developing habits for a number of reasons.
People often assume they’ll remember to do the things they need to do in order to develop healthy habits. However, this isn’t always the case. Someone may decide that they’re going to start exercising regularly. While they might get off to a strong start, a busy day could cause someone to forget to go to the gym. When you assume you’ll remember to do what you need to do, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Because of this, having a visual cue like a jar of paper clips can be incredibly helpful. It’s simpler to stick with your habits when you have a visual reminder sitting right in front of you.
In addition, visual cues allow you to track your progress. It’s one thing to say that consistency is necessary to success, and it’s another thing to keep track of how consistent you actually are. Trent’s paper clips provided him with an easy measurement system. As soon as he looked at his jars of paper clips, he knew how much progress he had made.
In addition, visual triggers can be very motivating. When you can see how much progress you’re making, you’ll find yourself naturally wanting to continue that habit. With every paperclip you place in the jar, the stronger your desire to finish the task will become. This is referred to by many economists as the “Endowed Progress Effect.” It’s believed that people value things more once they’ve already attained them. When you see the amount of paperclips in the “completed” jar increase, your drive to complete your task will increase.
You can use visual triggers to assist you on both short-term and long-term projects. With paperclips, you’re starting over from the beginning every day.
You can achieve all sorts of goals by implementing a strategy like Trent’s paper clips. For example, if you want to do 100 push-ups every day, you could start with 10 paper clips, and move one clip over every time a set of 10 push-ups is completed.
If you need to apply for jobs, you could start out with 25 paper clips and move one over each time you send out your resume. If you want to drink more water every day, start out with 8 paper clips, and move one ever every time you’ve drank a full glass.
If you want to take vitamins 3 times a day, you could start off with three paper clips and flip one over every time you swallow your supplement. What’s great about this strategy is that it won’t cost you any more than $10. All you have to do is buy one box of regular paper clips.
After that, just buy two regular paper clip holders. Decide on the habit you want to develop, and start moving your paper clips from one container to another.
After analysis, Dyrsmid decided that the path to success revolved around making sales calls. He decided that the most important thing he could do was master the fundamentals of his job.
This is something that can hold true for everybody. There is no magic wand. There’s no miracle secret. The trick to success lies in developing healthy habits.
As an entrepreneur, author, and fitness enthusiast, I worked as a personal trainer and health club manager since 2007. I'm currently launching a fitness app, Exerscribe, that monitors the user and adapts to their preferences — like the "Pandora" of workout Apps. I have 10 certifications from nationally accredited organizations (including Precision Nutrition) and over 10,000 sessions serviced which have been embodied in this App. Exerscribe is a brain-based training system that uses neuroscience and behavioral-based coaching for lasting results.
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